• Plansysteme Mixed Reality


Microsoft unveiled HoloLens 2 at MWC

Alex Kipman and his team demonstrated the next generation HoloLens at MWC 2019. For us as a Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner it was exciting to see the journey continue.

Expectations were running high and there were still quite a few extras that we didn't expect. However, let's talk about what we did expect first:

It's already been four years since Microsoft debuted HoloLens 1 at Build 2015. Since then, a few things have been presented that clearly pointed in the direction of the next generation version of HoloLens:

  • An HPU 2.0 (Holographic Processing Unit) released already in 2017 that is not only capable of tracking hand positions, but the position and direction of every finger of both hands.
  • Project Kinect for Azure, demoed at Build 2018, is the next-generation, intelligent edge device capable of creating detailed, high-resolution depth images. This is the basis for creating a 3D model of the environment (spatial mapping). It's an open secret that Kinect for Azure is a HoloLens project spin-off.
  • A Microsoft patent application published in 2017 describes a method to increase field-of-view on a near-eye display.

Hand tracking, spatial mapping and field-of-view are factors that directly affect usability of a Mixed Reality device. In addition comfort and performance have been issues for users and developers alike.

So it's actually no surprise to see that these limitations of HoloLens version 1 have been addressed:

  • Field-of-view has more than doubled.
  • Eye-tracking and a fully articulated hand model enable the user to interact with virtual content intuitively.
  • Wearing comfort has vastly improved (one of the biggest issues when demoing HoloLens 1).
  • Computing and rendering power have significantly increased.

While it was good to see that these features have improved, the presentation wasn't only about HoloLens hardware. For me, the most exciting take aways were software and strategy related:

Mixed Reality Services for Azure

It is no surprise that Azure and HoloLens have built a strong team, so it's quite logical for Microsoft to offer Mixed Reality-specific services on Azure. Most exciting for me is the fact that these services are platform-agnostic and also support ARKit (on iOS) and ARCore (on Android). This is a great strategy to make Azure the home base for Augmented Reality collaboration experiences.

Microsoft kick-starts an open Augmented Reality community

While Microsoft has been praised for being one of the most active contributors to open source, I didn't expect this to be true for Mixed Reality key technologies. Nonetheless, Microsoft made commitments to an open Mixed Reality ecosystem. This also includes peaceful coexistence of third-party app stores (Open App Store).

Even the gaming industry envisions Augmented Reality to be the "primary platform of the future"

Talking to active and potential customers in the past, I always pointed out that for industrial and commercial use-cases, AR would be more appropriate than VR. It was particularly surprising me to hear Tim Sweeny of Epic Games say he believes that AR will be "the primary platform of the future".

At the end of the day, when I look at HoloLens 2 and imagine what we can do with it, I see one thing: the future.